U.S. unemployment claims drop to 222,000, lowest in 44 years

The number of Americans collecting unemployment benefits fell last week to the lowest level since Richard Nixon was president.

The Labor Department said Thursday that claims for jobless aid dropped by 22,000 to 222,000, the fewest since March 1973. The less volatile four-week average slid by 9,500 to 248,250, the lowest since late August.

The overall number of Americans collecting unemployment checks dropped to 1.89 million, the lowest since December 1973 and down nearly 9 percent from a year ago.

Unemployment claims are a proxy for layoffs. The low level suggests that employers are confident enough in the economy to hold onto workers.

The unemployment rate last month hit a 16-year low 4.2 percent.

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